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Senior officials face stiff graft checks
By Xing Zhigang (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-19 23:42

High-ranking government officials, senior managers of State-owned enterprises (SOEs) and their families will undergo stiff checks as they leave China in the wake of staggering corruption cases.

A recent report by the Ministry of Commerce estimates 4,000 corrupt Chinese officials and SOEs managers have fled overseas in the past two decades, taking US$50 billion out of the country.

Many of them are thought to have first sent their family members to study or live overseas before skipping the country themselves.

As a result, the government will take a closer look at any of their relatives heading overseas.

They will now be required to report their intentions to related departments before they leave, says Li Xiaowei, a researcher with the Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League.

He said the scheme currently applies to director-general-level officials in central government departments, county-level officials in local governments and SOEs managers at the same levels.

In line with the programme, those in violation of the regulation will be given disciplinary punishment.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Ministry of Supervision ordered a formal start of the pilot programme in early July.

"If the experiment goes well, the scheme will gradually be spread to the rest of the country," he said.

Li said the measures were based on a seven-point proposal put forward by his league, one of China's democratic parties.

The league proposed the move in March at the Second Session of the 10th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's top political advisory body.

Professor Yang Haikun, vice-chairman of the Administrative Law Society of China, said imposing strict control on overseas travel of government officials and their family members will play a key role in rooting out potential corrupt practices.

"These measures have managed to plug up a main loophole in our system of administration through strengthening supervision over government officials," he told China Daily.

"But more hard work has to be done because we still have many problems with our management mechanism."

He suggested the country's financial and banking authorities to reinforce their anti-laundering work in a bid to curb growing capital outflow induced by corruption.

The loopholes in China's lax legal and management systems as well as the absence of an efficient control system on foreign-exchange flow are blamed for the illegal capital outflow.

The Ministry of Commerce report said corrupt officials and some private firms used companies registered in offshore finance centres, such as the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas, to transfer capital illegally.

China has problems in getting officials guilty of corruption extradited back because it has extradition treaties with so few other countries.

The nation is aiming to improve judicial co-operation with other countries and the International Criminal Police Commission, but only a small number have been arrested and successfully brought back.

One of the few successful cases was the repatriation of Yu Zhendong from the United States to China with the help of the FBI on April 16 this year.

Yu, former manger of the Kaiping Sub-branch of the Bank of China in Guangdong Province fled to the US with two accomplices on false passports in 2001, taking in their pockets about US$483 million from the bank.

Most of the corrupt officials still at large abroad came from financial and banking sectors and SOEs, said a recent article of the China Comment magazine published by the Xinhua News Agency.

Low-ranking corrupt officials involved in small-sum graft cases usually flee to neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Mongolia and Russia.

Higher-ranking ones are often found hiding in Western developed countries including the United States, Canada, Australia and Holland.

And some of them found their hideouts in small countries in Africa, Latin America and East Europe while others managed to set foot in former member countries of the British Commonwealth via Hong Kong before sneaking into other countries, the magazine said.

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